Damai Homestay and Santubong NP – Sarawak

Still love a cold one at the end of a day.

 

Hello everyone,.We woke up this morning to thunder and lightning , then of course some heavy rain followed, I checked the weather and it didn’t look real good for the next couple of days which is a real bugger as rain and trekking through jungles doesn’t really go together. We are in our little home stay, it’s really nice what the owners have done here as you can see by the photos. There’s a nice view from our room which you can’t even see on the photos, it’s the only room with a landing area with a couple of banana lounges and some pot plants, also there’s a big overhang so we could sit there on our lounges this morning and watch the rain……riveting stuff. There’s also a little waterfall next to the house and really beautiful gardens and a fish pond. Our room is ok but very tired, when you look at photos on bookings.com I guess they do use their best photos when everything was new many moons ago and we were a little disappointed when we first arrived but have settled in very nicely now.

 

fantastic setting and backdrop
Damai Nanga Homestay – stunning setting

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Also the breakfast here was raved about on the reviews as Anthony kept telling me, so I was really looking forward to this amazing breakfast this morning and had images of all types of tropical fruits, muesli, yogurt and maybe omelettes in my head. Well there was cornflakes, uht milk, diced watermelon and pineapple, toast and jam, marmalade and wait for it………1 hard boiled egg..cold of course 😢 Really not what we expected but maybe we are just really fussy or maybe our expectations in Borneo are just way too high.
Trekking Santubong National Park
Santubong National Park
Well we were getting settled on our double bed for the day as it was still raining and around lunch time the sun actually peeked out, we couldn’t believe it, so we quickly got ready and drove just up the road a few minutes to the Santubong National Park. There’s a huge summit hike, which we would do but not after rain so we decided to do the loop walk which to me always sounds easy and we didn’t want to push our luck with the weather. Well 2 hours later and seeing only 1 bird, we were absolutely drenched, I mean really you could have wrung out Anthony, it was so steamy in that forest, our goggles kept fogging up, and it was really slow going as the whole loop was slippery tree roots and even more slippery rocks with the green moss on them. And guess which Wally decided to wear white shorts?? It was quite picturesque there, in places, and took up some of our afternoon.
We were pretty hungry after that and found a nice beachfront bar and grill just a few minutes further up the road and we also went back there for tea tonight. The weather stayed good all afternoon but the mountain behind has very low cloud again and we just had another shower so we are really praying for a nice day tomorrow.
A Hornbill Monument being built at Damai Village
A Hornbill Monument being built at Damai Village
Oh I have to tell you when we were down by the beach there were a couple of horses tied up together, for riding, there was a sign there if you want to hire these horses and oh my god they were unbelievably skinny, one was really just skin and bones. I got Anthony to take some sneaky photos and have sent them off with an email to the local equivalent to the RSPCA in Kuching, thank god they even have one here. We are hoping they can help, we really hate seeing animals so mistreated and these horses looked so miserable and dejected I really had to do something.
This is one of our pet hates besides rubbish when travelling to different countries, is seeing so many skinny sick domestic animals.
Well we did get a few nice photos for the day so enjoy and keep your fingers crossed for us that tomorrow is a nice day.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.

Mulu National Park – Sarawak

Mulu National Park
The picturesque Mulu National Park

 

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Some Images of Mulu National Park

 

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Some snippets of our time in Mulu NP.

 

Well Hello Everyone……we have been in isolation for the last 4 days. Mulu is a beautiful spot, not really even a village, only 1 little mini mart type shop with nothing in it. We did buy some chocolates there but couldn’t eat them, I think they had been melted over and over in the tropical heat and were pretty disgusting. Thank god the resort had a little very expensive shop that at least had some picnic and crunchie bars.

The Marriott Resort there is absolutely beautiful, the rooms are really nicely set out and furnished, very upper market fittings and the bed was like falling into some soft white fluffy clouds. We loved how it is all built off the ground with so many timber walkways. The pool wasn’t that nice though, just a rectangle with decking and umbrellas etc but it was always full of kiddies, I wish these big resorts could splash out and have a pool for kids and one for adults. We didn’t go in it but felt sorry for some of the adults trying to relax there. Of course everything there is expensive, drinks food even bottled water, which we were sneaky and bought it at the National Park for half price.
Scarlet-rumped Trogon
A Prize find for us – Scarlet-rumped Trogon
slim pickings for Bird pics at Mulu
Every morning we would jump on the shuttle bus and go to the park, only about 10 minutes drive, and when you finish at the park the security there rings the Marriott and they send the bus to pick you up again.
The park is beautiful too and really well set out with quite some kms of timber walkways, very easy to walk around. They had a huge bird tower where you had to get the key to open it which we did everyday. But if you wanted to go to the caves it was all tours, and expensive tours, and very regimented, we really didn’t care for that side of things. We could walk to one cave, the deer cave where more than 3 million bats fly out every evening, just beautiful watching them spiralling into the sky. We even saw an eagle take one out.
Tree Hugger Dragonfly - Tyriobapta torrida
Tree Hugger Dragonfly
Dragon & Damselflies galore at Mulu
We were a bit disappointed though as we really didn’t see a lot of birdlife, the jungle here is full of Tarzan vines we call them so it’s really hard to see through them, but we didn’t hear too many birds either and sat up in the bird tower for quite sometime looking too. We did see heaps of different dragonflies butterflies and some really amazing bugs and gorgeous squirrels so it really wasn’t too bad. The heat got to us though and we had to go back to the resort and sit out the hottest part of the day and then head back in to the park around 3 pm but then it was very quiet.
Butterflies of Mulu
There were a few Butterflies 
We didn’t think the people here were very friendly, we did meet some nice barmaids but generally most of them are very sullen and it seems they really can’t be bothered with us. Apparently the resort is only allowed to hire local people and if one gets upset over something they all do, and it seems they have no competition for their jobs so they don’t try to hard.
Bornean Pit Viper
Saw this Bornean Pit Viper on the way out of the Park on the last day.
Always nice to come across the odd Reptile or two

A Common Squirrel feasting
Squirrels are always fun to watch

Red Millipede (Trachelomegalus modestior)
Red Millipede of Mulu
No shortage of odd looking bugs
4 days there was well and truly enough and today we flew to Kuching. It seems very clean and a good road system getting out to our new digs, a big step down from the Marriott I’m afraid,no luxuries here but it’s clean and very close to the parks here. It was great to pick up a hire car again as we didn’t have one in Mulu. So now we are super busy as we have so many photos, a video and emails etc to catch up on. We didn’t have phone or wifi at the Marriott for 4 days, they say they have wifi but it doesn’t work. It looks quite scenic around here so hope to get into at least one of the parks tomorrow and also get some scenery photos.
Bye for now Steph and Anthony.

Mount Kinabalu – Revisited

Mt Kinabalu, from our Hotel
The ever changing view of Mount Kinabalu

 

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Our Digs at Kundasang

 

Well we had a great start to the day, got to the park around 8 am and soon as we paid at the gate we wound our windows down and started listening for birds. After only about ten minutes we pulled over as we could hear some birds quite loud, we got out of the car and looked and looked but they were just behind a wall of trees so we couldn’t quite see them. I was looking through my binoculars and all of a sudden I realised I could see some talons on a tree branch and after manoeuvring a bit I could see it was an owl sitting there asleep and the birds were literally flying around his head and he wasn’t one bit bothered. Maybe he had one of them for breakfast and they obviously weren’t happy. We just couldn’t believe it, what a find, if I hadn’t been looking through binoculars we wouldn’t have seen him. Anthony had to put his extender on the camera to get a good photo as it was quite dark in amongst the trees and the owl was quite a distance away. He is a Barred eagle owl, just fantastic to see.

 

Barred Eagle-Owl

 

We then had breakfast at the restaurant in the park but when we came out all we could hear was noise. They are doing a lot of maintenance rebuilding some chalets, I know it’s necessary but when you are looking for birds the last thing you want to hear is a band saw going. Then we thought we would have a quick tour around the botanical gardens as we have seen a few birds there. But guess what…..they were using those very loud petrol blowers,  Grrrrrrr 😡😡😡 just our luck.
We went on a little hike along one of the tracks and eventually got away from the noise but I was thinking ……since I’ve been taking videos I have realised how noisy we are as humans. As you’ve probably noticed we don’t have many photos or videos with people in them or peoples noises, but it takes a lot of effort, pretty much if there are people around I don’t bother taking videos and for photos we always get up early or get somewhere early if we want photos of things besides wildlife.
I do wonder though what sort of HUM planet earth must be emitting and I’m sure if there’s alien life out there they must hear us loud and clear.
Little Pied Flycatcher
A gorgeous Little Pied Flycatcher
A few more birds of Kinabalu
Yellow breasted Warbler
A very pretty Yellow-breasted Warbler
Bornean Jezebel - Delias eumolpe eumolpe
A great find – the uncommon Bornean Jezabel
Anthony developed a really bad headache so after lunch we came back to the hotel. This Perkasa hotel was built in 1981 and sadly looks like it…..but it’s on a perk spot up on a hill and we only noticed today that they have a fantastic landing with a great view of the mountain here. This Kinabalu mountain is just amazing, every time you look at it the clouds have either totally covered it or there’s some type of picturesque cloud hovering around it, it really is a very majestic brooding mountain.
We are hoping to get some nice morning photos from the landing before we check out and  head back to Kota Kinabalu for our flight around lunch time to Mulu, which is another place in Borneo but in the Sarawak region.
Bye for now Steph and Anthony.

Poring Hot Springs – Sabah

Poring Hot Springs
The individual Hot Spring Baths

 

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Accommodation at Poring

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Poring Hot Springs 

Well we had a nice morning in Poring Hot Springs, we walked back through the butterfly sanctuary and saw a few more different butterflies. We did walk up to the tropical gardens but apparently there’s not much flowering so we gave it a miss but did see this enormous Orb weaver spider had just caught himself a bug so we took some photos and a video of him, it’s always fantastic to see such a big spider at work. We really love seeing all types of critters in the wild, although once I did walk into a big web like that and had eye to eye contact with one of those big golden orb spiders, oh my god I was screaming like a girl, since then I always make sure I’m never walking through the bush first. Absolutely Terrifying.

 

Giant Orb-Weaver Feasting
Juvenile White-crowned Sharma
Juvenile White-crowned Sharma

 

Some Butterflies of Poring

 

Pink Skimmer - Orthetrum pruinosum
Pink Skimmer dragonfly

 

More Odonata of Poring 
walkway to the Hot Springs and Restaurant
Walkway to Hot Springs and Restaurant
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We did the big 45 minute drive to Kundasang, we are staying at the Perkasa Hotel which is ok, big room great bathroom and shower, ticks all the boxes though it has this old worldly smell, I guess it is a really old hotel with old carpet. We had lunch back at the Mount Kinabalu Park restaurant and managed to get a couple of hours of driving around listening out for birds. We did get great photos of 6 new birds in that time which was just fantastic to see. Sadly some of them have little bands on their legs, research so we are told. Some birds have 3 bands……must be 3 types of research?…You have to wonder if it helps the birds in any way, not much use having all this data if it doesn’t help them. Apparently they rig up big nets across the ridges somehow to catch them, I wonder how many times they have to go through that sort of stress.
Well anyway we love seeing them and they all look healthy, and we love seeing new birds.
We will put our new photos of them on tomorrow’s blog as we will have the whole day in the park so hopefully get more photos.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.

Relaxing in Sandakan

Our Flashy Hotel in Sandakan

 

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Our short stay at Sandakan

 

The other side of Sandakan
The other side of Sandakan

 

Our 2 nights in Sandakan went really well. The first night we went into the city which isn’t really as big as we first thought, and it has a different feel to it, almost like being in a different country. The drive in from the hotel is nice and tropical and really tidy with trees and plants in the median strip and not much rubbish. We had to get some supplies so found a supermarket and there are loads of shops and the city has a Harbour with all little makeshift restaurants along the harbour wall. We walked to the last restaurant which had more of a landing and wasn’t so busy, had a great meal and we were quite close to a navy patrol boat so Anthony could have some nostalgia and reminisce about his navy days.

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Yesterday we got up early as we wanted to have breakfast early and then drove about 10 minutes back out of the city to this beautiful Rainforest Park. What a fantastic  spot, it has a very wide concrete path all the way round and actually some of it we were on tippy toes pushing up the very steep hills. We didn’t see a lot there, every time we did see something Anthony couldn’t get a photo because his glasses were steaming up so much….it was really humid and steamy there. There’s a couple of trails but we didn’t have our hiking boots on so gave them a miss as they looked a bit overgrown. There’s also a pitcher plant garden, i think it’s all quite new and would be even nicer if they had a cafe there. I love how they made good use of the old tyres for planters, I mean I’ve seen that before but usually old tyres in gardens even when painted still look like horrible used tyres but they have cut out the tops to make them more artistic.
Pitcher Plants at the Rainforest Park
Pitcher Plants at the Rainforest Park

Sandakan Rainforest Park

We stopped at the English Tea House for an early lunch, it’s just past our hotel and up a steep hill, the view from there is nice and the gardens and setting there for lunch was just fantastic. We drove past the city to where all the houses are built out from the shore on stilts and jetties but sadly this also turned into the standard rubbish tip, we wanted to capture the houses somehow but was impossible with all the rubbish.
The rest of the afternoon was very relaxing, I did manage to talk Anthony into coming down to the pool and pulling up a banana lounge and even going for a swim. But honestly you just have to look at the pool to want to relax there. Banana lounging isn’t really our thing as we have done that so much in earlier times but this was like a really special treat, my pina colada was the best I have ever had so I had to have another. Of course if you do this all the time ……on go the kilos and you sleep a lot, it makes you very very sleepy. We had plans to go back down the harbour for tea but a really big storm was coming at speed so we had a fantastic meal at the hotel restaurant.
This morning we drove back into the city to get some photos of the harbour but actually it looks better at night, daylight has revealed it’s also a rubbish tip…..along the harbour and rocks just so much rubbish and floating in the water there. You can see Turtle Island from there and that is supposed to be a turtle conservation area and I have read about the pristine waters there and white beaches etc, I haven’t been there so can’t comment but those turtles must just have a mine field of plastics to navigate through. It’s a real sad reality to see firsthand how much rubbish is going into the ocean here.
We had the big horror drive today back to the other side of Borneo. It only took 3 hours this time as it’s Sunday and not too many trucks on the road and no torrential downpours.
We are now in Poring Springs. We have a nice cottage type room with a veranda, nothing like our last hotel but this is nice  and clean and has its own bathroom, the only thing missing is a fridge but you don’t get that very often in Borneo. There’s some walks here to waterfalls and supposed to be good birding, also the hot springs which we quickly checked out, obviously being Sunday it was just crazy with masses of people all lazing in these baths, definitely not our cup of tea. I know the water is supposed to be very therapeutic but with all the human noise there I’m not sure what sort of therapy it would be. We did a quick walk up to the canopy walk with swing bridges but you had to queue behind so many people and weren’t allowed to take your own photos but had to pay them to take a photo of you. What a tourist rip off, we couldn’t stand it waiting for people to get their paid selfies so turned around and came back to the room to relax a bit. So our first impression of Poring Springs isn’t so good but hopefully tomorrow when all the masses have gone we might have a better experience.
Cheers for now Steph and Anthony.

 

Sepilok to Kinabatangan River

Green Crested Lizard at Sepilok Banana Cafe

 

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A short Video of the amazing Banana Cafe, Sepilok

Well our morning didn’t really go as planned, checkout was at 11 am which didn’t really give us enough time to do the pita walk and then have enough time for showers etc so we just walked the walkways and some paths again at the discovery centre. Actually it was very quiet there, we were even quite early but didn’t see much except for a few skinks and this beautiful Orangutan just having a little rest in a tree, we really didn’t want to disturb him so we were very quiet, took some quick photos and left him in peace.

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A young Orangutan at Rest – Sepilok Rainforest

 

After checking out we stopped for a quick iced tea with lemon at the banana cafe, there was hardly anyone there and Anthony got some great photos of those elusive little flowerpeckers, they are so small and fast and always hiding. They have a bird feeder there and lots of flowering bushes so it’s a hotspot  for those types of birds.

 

 

It was a 2 hour drive to our new digs in Sukau which is right on the river. Anthony booked 4 nights here, but was always a bit unsure about this place and couldn’t find out anything about the river boat trips etc. Well all I can say is it’s just one big rip off tourist place, pay pay pay for rubbish really.This place is like a lodge I guess with timber walkways leading to cabins, which is what we were in first but honestly is was worse than the Hovel Central at Mount Kinabalu. A scrap of toweling for a towel, certainly no bath mat, no kettle or cups or glasses, another one of those wet showers, also the louvre windows wouldn’t close which made the aircon pretty hopeless. We didn’t know what to do, we were so disappointed yet again. Anthony found if we stayed one night we could cancel without having to pay for the other three nights, so hooray for that, we weren’t staying that long, also they had a spare deluxe room so we took that. It was more expensive but comfy bed proper shower, kettle etc so things did take a turn for the better.
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Kinabatangan River Video
Then we decided to take the afternoon boat trip for 2 hours which is what we came here for but Anthony was under the impression that the boat went all the time and would be cheap…….No No No not in this rip off place. We did the trip along with so many other boats just crazy…really not our cup of tea at all. We saw a few birds but we were just going flat stick up and down the river about 3 times, yes just up down up down at high speed and didn’t see a thing for the first hour. Because they had spotters on the shore looking for elephants and had spotted them up there, but by the time we got there they had gone so we went all the way down there and then back again. Some of us saw birds but they weren’t interested in us seeing anything but the elephants, here’s our Safari trip in  Kui Buri all over again.
Asian Elephant on banks of kinabatangan River
Asian Elephant on the banks of Kinabatangan River
Yes we did see the elephants but you can hear all the people in the background of my video, it’s not how we want to see wildlife. We will certainly stay away from any future boat trips.
They have a restaurant on the river here, for drinks there’s either water or coke and we had a very basic buffet dinner. I’ve been having Pina Colada’s the last few nights so have become rather spoilt.
So the problem now is that all the accommodation around Sepilok is booked out and we have nowhere that we want to go to…..We’re not staying here it’s a @$#& hole. We might be able to go back to Labuk where we stayed at that hotel then it’s only about 20 minutes drive to the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
I will keep you posted.
It was extremely hot today must have easy been around 38 degrees, they have a problem with power here so the power just went off and thank god it came back on again, I don’t think we could sleep without aircon. The power keeps surging, all the lights dim and the aircon is on 17 degrees but is only just keeping us cool.
Borneo is a real hit and miss affair, I guess if we ever come back we can sidestep all the pitfalls. We will be in better spirits when we get back to the jungle.
Bye, Steph and Anthony.

Kinabalu Park – Sabah

Bornean Green Magpie (Eye lashes courtesy of ‘Maybelline’)

Well the last few days have been interesting…..we are battling headaches most days as we can’t find espresso coffee anywhere and their semi percolated watered down glimpse of coffee with UHT milk is literally killing us. All of a sudden Thailand seems like heaven on earth and Borneo is losing flavour real fast.

 

Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu, Highest Peak in SE Asia (4095m)

 

Mount Kinabalu Park was amazing, we loved it there, after we arrived at our new digs (Hovel Central ) as I called it and when you see the video you will see why, and no the bed was very hard and the shower just warm and we had to wear flip flops to go to the loo after we had showers…… I won’t go on about it because I’m probably exaggerating, being so crabby without my usual caffeine fixes.
Anyway we hightailed it to park as we got there quite early about 1pm, drove around a bit, saw a few birds, visited the restaurant for lunch there , the weather was great and we were really excited about visiting the next day.
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After a horrible sleep at Hovel Central we got back to the park, blue sky just beautiful, all the birds were chirping and so many sounds we couldn’t recognise, but we decided to have breakfast first before we started on one of the many hikes there, and as we were having our omelettes the wind really picked up and then shock horror we saw very low clouds scooting in at speed and within minutes it was just bucketing down. We just sat there stunned , we sat there for quite some time praying for it to clear and really didn’t like our only option of going back to the hovel which by the way didn’t have power and water when we woke up that morning. But we couldn’t stay there and sadly drove back, at least the power and water was back on and it wasn’t raining there at all as it was down and away from the mountain. We sat there for a while and decided to give the park another go as it hadn’t rained and the sky was overcast but looked a bit lighter. We are so glad we did, it didn’t rain after that and we just drove around on the bitumen with our windows down and stopped when we heard birds and Anthony got some fantastic photos, check out the eyelashes on the green magpie….what a beautiful bird and  so noisy, you certainly know when they are around. You may also notice the bands on all the birds little legs?????? We have no idea what that is about, and how on earth did they manage to capture and band nearly every bird we saw….. very disturbing🙁🙁
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We had lunch again and spent all afternoon driving and looking and spotting, it really turned into a fantastic day.
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A short Video of our Kinabalu experience 
So now we come to TODAY
It was our last day there and we were pretty much going to do the same thing as yesterday except we woke up to rain…….Decided to go into the park anyway and wait for it to clear and we do like the omelettes at the restaurant . So there we sat…..rain rain and more rain and not much wind so guess it wasn’t going to clear real soon, we had to make an executive decision to forgo our last nights stay at the hovel and
just hit the road as it was going to be about a 4 hour drive across Borneo to the Sandakan / Sepilok area. Anthony tried to book a day earlier into the accomodation we had booked there but it was full, so we decided to just get to a hotel close to there for the night.
Anthony couldn’t believe how quickly I packed, usually he’s waiting for me doing all the bathroom stuff but I was pretty keen to leave Hovel Central as a bad memory and move onto better experiences.
Soon as we got away from the mountain and down in altitude it stopped raining which was nice. The road conditions are dangerous to put it nicely, they have these red signs just everywhere with ‘AWAS’ written on them, I guess it must mean Beware or Danger. Also Borneans must be up there with the most dangerous and risk taking drivers in the world, really hairy driving here. We stopped about halfway at a KFC, because we really felt like chips……Oh my god the smells coming out of the drains in that town were horrendous, all the towns so far have been very dirty, rubbish just everywhere, it’s quite depressing really.
A little while later it started raining again and got torrential, I don’t know how our little Honda hire car managed to get here unscathed and no busted tyres as you really couldn’t see the road at all for water and we hit so many potholes and craters it certainly was a drive to remember. Anthony really had to concentrate, and also a lot of very slow trucks to overtake it certainly was a challenge.
We have to actually go back that way in a couple of weeks but trying not to think about that just yet.
So we are now relaxing in our nice hotel…nice clean shower, soft bed….we walked into the town just here  in downtown Labuk, people were just staring at us, I guess they don’t get tourists here. We asked at a cafe with a big logo of a coffee cup on the front if they have espresso but oh no you can’t get it anywhere here.😢😢😢😢
So we went to the local supermarket, bought instant coffees and uht milk and will just have to suffer. Looks like the rain is easing so please cross your fingers so we can get out and about back to nature tomorrow.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.

Back to the (real) Jungle

Giant False Leaf Katydid - Pseudophyllus titan
Giant False Leaf Katydid – Pseudophyllus titan

 

Hello everyone, we had a good transition day, a leisurely taxi ride to the airport, not much traffic as it’s Sunday, what a great day to leave Bangkok. We picked up the car, no problems, we were there early but they still had the car ready for us. We arrived at our new abode the Arantakiri Resort which is only about 5 kms from the gates into the Khao Yai National Park. It’s nice surrounds here, apart from lots of dogs over the other side of the river barking alot, it is quite peaceful. We had a quick walk around, found some new dragonflies and that beautiful extra large grasshopper, what a beauty the pattern on its body is amazing, it screeched because Anthony put his hand on it and he couldn’t see what he touched,he thought there was a frog in that bush. It’s actually called a Giant False-Leaf Katydid and we always feel so lucky to stumble across these amazing creatures. I hope we never lose that feeling of awe and excitement and respect for all the critters we see, we wish that others could look at them the same way.

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A short video of our new digs and surrounds


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Some critters to greet us
On the entry road to the park there is loads of restaurants and cafes so looks like we have quite a choice for meals though our lunches we will have in the park, there is also a good array of food stalls there. We will get up early to spend as much time as we can in the park over the next 5 days, we are so excited, can’t wait,
Bye for now Steph and Anthony.